Psellus (?), On the Activity of Daemons

Category: Neoplatonism > Chaldaica & Procliana

1 Introduction

There is some doubt whether the present work (also known as On the Operation of Daemons or De daemonibus) is really by Michael Psellus, but it cannot be ignored when discussing Proclus and the Chaldaica, since it presents a taxonomy of daemons that can hardly be described as anything but an adaptation of Chaldaic-Proclian ideas (and terminology) within a Christian framework. Fittingly, the daemonology is put into the mouth of a fictional Marcus from Mesopotamia, the homeland of the Chaldaeans.

The issue of sources is complicated by the literary character of the work – a dialogue, containing the second dialogue with Marcus within it – and the fact that it comes down in two redactions. The more popular version was translated into English in the 1850s by Marcus Collisson (available as a PDF on, and has since been reedited by Paul Gautier (Greek text, with long introduction in French, available as a PDF on Gautier argues that it was written well after Psellus’ death, and that the other redaction is secondary and manifestly inferior. Yet the less popular redaction edited by Bidez (Greek text, with short French introduction, available as a PDF on seems to contain more Neoplatonic material, and I at least can imagine that both redactions are from the hand of the same author (be it Psellus or not), regardless of which was primary and which secondary.

On this page, I do not intend to give either version fully (for a general view of the whole work, the old Collisson translation is still workable), but only those passages which are conceivably relevant to the Chaldaica, with due attention to the Chaldaic-Neoplatonic vocabulary and parallels. This includes a passage not present in the popular redaction, which is in parts identical to material in Psellus, What Pagans Believe About Daemons (whether it is derived from it, or independently excerpted from the same Chaldaic-Neoplatonic source).

2 Translated excerpts